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Full text of "A lecture on stained glass"

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A LECTURE ON 
STAINED GLASS 



BY 



PROFESSOR R, ANNING BELL 

R.A.,R.W.S. 



A LECTURE ON 
STAINED GLASS 



BY 



PROFESSOR R. ANNING BELL 

R.A.»R.W.S. 




Published at The Royal College of Art Students* 
Common Room, South Kensington, S.W.7; and 

E tinted by George W. Jones at The Sign of The 
>olphin in Gough Square, Fleet Street, London. 
Copyright. All Rights Reserved. 



Nit: 




A LECTURE ON STAINED GLASS, DELI- 
VERED IN THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART 
STUDENTS' COMMON ROOM. BY PRO- 
FESSOR R.ANNING BELL,R.A.,R.W.S..ON 
TUESDAY. 31st JANUARY, 1922. 

Y subjedt of Stained Glass is a very 
wide, vague, large sort of subjedl, and 
of course it is quite impossible to talk 
about it in any thorough way in the 
course of an evening. You want to write 
booksabout it. I thought itwould be in' 
teresting to you, perhaps, to talk about 
the more recentvariations and changes, 
the evolution in the use of glass. The 
fadt that this modification in Stained 
Glass is very largely the work of artists 
trained in this College should interest you particularly. 

Stained Glass, commonly so'called — it is a misnomer, for it 
is really coloured and painted glass — is one of the three great 
Christian decorative arts : Mosaic, Stained Glass, Fresco. They 
are in sequence, roughly speaking, but they overlap. First,Mosaic 
in the earlier ten centuries. It began about the 4th century and 
went on to the Renaissance, when its charadler changed. You then 
get Stained Glass, overlapping it about the 12th century; andthe 
third great Christian art is Fresco Painting, which flourished from 
the 1 4th century onward, following a long and slow development 
from a very early period. 

These three seem to be the main arts through which the ex' 
pression of the Christian religious scheme, its story, and its emo' 
tion have been conveyed — Sculpture has found expression in all 
religions. They have a considerable sympathy in the fatft that 
they all demand plain surfaces, flat or curved, and are all closely 
associated with architedlure. Each of them also has been so im^ 
portant, so dominating, that it has affected the architedhiral treat' 
ment of the buildings which it was designed to adorn. 

Coloured and painted glass is the outstanding decorative treat' 
ment of the Gothic period— the age of the cathedrals. The earliest 
stained glass which we know is, I believe, of the loth or i ith cen' 
tury, and there are but few examples existing now. The great per' 
iod runs from about 1200 to 1550 or so in its full vigour. That is 



the big cycle of stained glass; it went on living after that, and is 
reviving, I am glad to say, nowadays; but those centuries showed 
its highest and fullest development. It was then that the condi' 
tions of life and architedture allowed its completest opportunity of 
expression. After that it was adapted — with a much simpler treat' 
ment, with far less colour, with more painting on clear glass — to 
domestic decorative work, and you will see a good deal of Con^ 
tinental work of a very pleasant and attractive type of the i6th 
and 17th centuries. 

The pradtical function of stained glass is comparable with that 
of mosaic. Mosaic is an enrichment of the shadow. Buildings de* 
signed for mosaic usually have quite small windows, low down 
in the big domes or sparsely set in the side walls, and it is themo' 
saic enrichment of shadow, vaguely lit by refledled light from 
these windows, which gives it its highest beauty. The peculiar 
charm of mosaic depends largely on the gold treatment of the 
background, which is infinitely more attradlive when seen on 
curved surfaces and lit from below. 

Stained glass is a method of glorifying and modifying the light 
which enters a building ; it has a wide range, from a limpid clarity 
to rich and even sombre depths. Its power of emotional sugges' 
tion is considerable and this, doubtless, commended it to the 
mediaeval mystics. 

The spiritual fundtion of stained glass is, like that of mosaic, 
by a noble beauty of treatment, to present elevated ethical and 
religious ideas in a worthy way. It may do this by means of sym^ 
holism, or by typifying virtues and moral qualities by individ' 
ual figures of great characters from mythology or from religious 
history. For symbolism and these typcfigures it is peculiarly sui' 
ted. Further, its function is to enhance and to deepen the mood 
of religious exaltation which the architedhire of the building has 
already suggested to the worshipper. Stained glass is essentially 
a method of strengthening, carrying further and enriching the 
mood in which the worshipper finds himself when he enters those 
noble buildings, so full of the sense of aspiration and exaltation, 
andof the mystery which lies behind the outwardshowof things. 
That is just by way of showing you the sort of attitude which, I 
believe, we should adopt towards stained glass. You must realise 
that your work is more than making pleasant and agreeable col' 
our and striking a casual note of beauty. You have more than that 
to carry out, and deeper feelings to express. 



Now to come down to the material, to what is called stained 
glass. The fadl is it is merely coloured glass. It is glass melted and 
mixed up in the pot with various coloured oxides, green, blue or 
red, whatever you want. Then the blowpipe is put in, and with 
a quantity of the sticky mixture attached to it is then blown out 
into a large bulb, just as ordinary window glass is, and cut off and 
flattened out on big tables to cool. The beauty of the quality of 
stained glass is very largely owing to the irregularity of the thick' 
ness of it, and you often get subtle variations in the colour,streaks, 
blotches of colour and so on; the thickness of the glass makes quite 
an appreciable difference in the depth of the colour, as you can 
easily imagine. One seledls from the large sheet of glass the par' 
ticular piece which contains a tone of colour one wishes to use. 

Another treatment of glass is very largely used. This is called 
" flash " glass. It was found that if the glass were coloured right 
through with vigorous blues, ruby reds, and greens, it became so 
deep that you did not get enough light through it. So quite early 
they found out a method by which a film of colour could be ap' 
plied to a sheet of clear glass, usually of a greenish tinge. Youhave 
the same thickness of glass as in the other method, but the col' 
our is in a thin stratum on the surface of it. This "flash " glass 
has another advantage which we occasionally make use of; you 
can work away the thin veneer of colour, leaving only the clear 
glass, an obvious method for making patterns. It used to be done 
by means of a wheel with which you ground away the surface 
rather laboriously, now you stop out with Brunswick Black the 
parts you do not want to eliminate and apply acid — it is the same 
method as in etching — and when you get down to the clear glass 
you get rid of the acid. Then you can paint in your brown paint 
or yellow stain, and you get quite an attractive effect. You will 
often see it done in rich robes and in crowns and things like that ; 
it is quite useful and workmanlike, but if it is used too much it 
becomes tricky and pretty. 

Now for the pradlice of the craft. I am afraid this will be 
very commonplace talk to those students who are working at 
stained glass, but possibly some others will be interested. I par' 
ticularly hope the more advanced painter students may be inter' 
ested, for it is to them one rather looks to take to stained glass in 
the last years of their education when they have become fairly 
competent in drawing and design, that is the time when stained 
glass should become to them a very attradtive and fruitful means 



of expression. The modern prad:ice is extremely like the old prac' 
tice.The craft has the great attraction to my mind of being one of 
those crafts which have changed very little all through the ages, 
and the workshop method of executing stained glass now is very 
much what it was in the earliest days. 

The tools are very much the same, too, except that for cutting 
the glass nowadays we use the more convenient modern dia' 
mond. The old method was simple but rather laborious. When 
you wanted to cut out a piece of glass you got a rather stoutish 
iron wire which you made red hot, and you drew the iron wire 
over the lines you wanted to break, and then with another tool 
you just nipped it off all round. They did the most extraordin' 
arily elaborate things in those days with these. I think they got tO' 
wards the later period to be far too fond of showing off their skill. 
They cut most preposterous, irregular and odd shapes to show 
they could do them; it was a case of the skilful craftsman getting 
a bit beyond himself. 

After the glass cutting comes the painting. This is done in the 
same way as it always was, and the leading too. There are several 
sizes of leads, 2 in., f in., and J in., etc. It is just a piece of narrow 
lead flanged in the middle to separate the adjacent pieces of glass, 
and when the lead is fixed all round the pieces, cement is put in 
to hold it together. You want to be a good plumber to do it very 
well, as I think our students have foundout. I think all who praC' 
tise the art should go through the workshop and learn to cut the 
glass and to lead it up ; it is not a very serious part of their training ; 
it is not necessary that they should become expert plumbers, but 
they should learn how and why it is done. I should very much like 
to have an expert plumber and an expert glazier to do that part 
of the work for the more advanced students, so that they could 
get on more quickly with advanced work. But I am afraid we shall 
not have that just yet, owing to the need for economyall round. 

Now getting further on, I take it the earlier people designed 
theirwindows in a much more simple way than we do. They had 
no cartoons, I think. I believe that they set the work out on the 
long wooden bench on which the glass is laid to be leaded up and 
cut, and marked it out with charcoal. Very often they had to use 
up bits of glass they had got, and make the designs fit into these, as 
glass was very expensive. Again,the early work is generally based 
on geometrical forms. A tall window would be cut up into seven 
or eight diamonds, circles, quatrefoils, or such like ; with ornament 

6 



tal detail in between. That gives an opportunityof using up very 
small pieces of glass. In those days labour was not very valuable 
and glass was, and so they did not like to waste any bits. Nowa^ 
days you cut a large sheet of glass, you get a few bits out of it, and 
often that is about all you can use of it. Theyhad very few colours, 
and as you could not go very far wrong with a limited palette, I 
really think very much of the beauty of the earliest glass is because 
they could not help themselves. The earlier glass was glaziers' 
work, it was the men thinking of leading it up rather than of the 
painter's work, who made the design. 

Then about 1300 somebody discovered that extraordinarily 
effedtive and useful material, the yellow stain. It was found that 
a solution of silver painted on the glass would give, according to 
its strength and according to the firing, all sorts of shades of yel' 
low. This led them to escape from the coarse note in stained glass. 
Blues, reds and greens are very good as a rule, but the neutral col' 
ours are rather poor, the purples are not very good, and yellow is 
inclined to be coarse. The yellow stain was of great assistance, and 
they could get nearly all the yellows they wanted ; it was very 
much more manageable because they could shade it off. 

The next thing is the paint, which is just a sort of brown mono- 
chrome. It is a colour which has an affinity with glass, which, 
when fired, fuses into the glass and becomes part of it. There are 
what are called enamel colours, that is to say they are enamels 
painted onandfired over the glass in the same way that the brown 
paint is fired on, and they give, of course, variations of colour 
necessary in heraldry, etc. This method is rather to be distrusted, 
because it can only be used safely in small quantities ; it is inclined 
to fly and disappear in large spaces. 

We have now dealt with the main materials: the glass, the 
leads, the stain and the paint, and I think I have said all that is 
necessary about the materials themselves. Once you know your 
materials, the production of a stained glass window is essentially 
and properly a piece of communal work. I do not a bit sympa' 
thise with those people who say they do the whole thing them* 
selves. Why should a man who is capable of designing a thing 
well be a plumber and glazier; he ought not to. It is like the peo' 
pie who insist on building their own houses, the sort of people 
who wear sandals and live on nuts. Besides it is so unsocial ; it is 
so much better that it should be a communal art. I like to think 
that the man who cuts the glass and the rest have some kind of 



interest in doing the work; they are not merely your slaves to do 
a cut'and'dried job, merely arbitrarily. I like to talk it over with 
the men, from whom, too, you often get quite useful suggestions. 
My own training has been entirely that way. I learned stained 
glass backwards, really. I began by designing windows, and then 
learned how to work them — designing them all wrong, and talk' 
ing to the fellows in the shop and learning about it that way. I 
had the ordinary training of a painter, I thought a stained glass 
window was the kind of thing you just did with charcoals and 
"genius." I see now quite constantly in a workshop in Scotland 
my first stained glass efforts ; they are a very valuable lesson in 
modesty — they are quite absurd. They turned out well enough 
because the fellows in the workshop knew their job; they did it, 
and talked to me,and I had the sense to see they knew the work 
better than I did, and we got the work out pretty well in the end. 
You people here with a useful craft shop, with all the materials 
to hand, have a tremendous advantage over us older people who 
just had to find out the best way we could. It was years and years 
before I really got to do it in a workmanlike way, and I am still 
finding out all sorts of faults. 

First of all, of course,you get a commission; that isquite a diffi' 
cult thing to do. The subjecft is next settled; that also is often a 
very difficult thing, particularly if you have a Committee. Then 
you make a design and, having got the design approved, you get 
the templates, and set the thing out on the cartoon. When you 
have to ask for templates, see that you get them made of cardboard 
or of paper, otherwise the local builder will send you an enormous 
construdlion of wood, which is very unmanageable, costs a lot 
in travel, and is very awkward for setting out. A piece of old 
wallpaper or brown paper will do well for templates, carefully 
marked as to their relative places in the window and particularly 
with the " inside *' well marked as well as cut out to the shapes. 
Oftenallyou need istheheadof thewindowabovethe**spring' 
ing " and figures showing what length it is below. You cannot 
trust the masonry if it is not modern, and not always then ; old 
work is almost always irregular. There is a decorative window 
over there (pointing), those lights are extremely irregular, and 
we had to have a template of every bit of it ; one light is about 
i|^in. widerat the bottom than the top.Theysent the templates 
carefully measured up, and I set up the cartoons. It seemed all 
right, the window was made and sent down and put up. When I 

8 



got to see it in the church, I found the windows were not hori' 
zontal at the bottom, the middle one was i in. lower than this 
one, and the other one i in. lower than that again.The result was 
these saddle bars, which are quite straight on the cartoons, made 
three steps in the window. It is really rather disconcerting to see 
the saddle bars running across slightly out of the true, it catches 
the eye of a person used to making stained glass. I was very angry 
withmyself whenlsawit on the opening day. You mustbequite 
sure that the shapes of the window are accurately produced, and 
you must not trust your template of the top of one light to do for 
the others ; you want one for each. Even in recent work, however 
good the mason is, there is quite often some slight variation. 

Having got your templates, you now get them traced out on 
the cartoon, which has to be done very carefully. Having set out 
the shape of the window, you place the saddle bars across. The 
function of these saddle bars is to hold the window up; without 
them the weight of glass in a long window would bulge it out or 
drag it down.These bars are usually about i in. wide, and the win' 
dow is tied to them by means of copper wires. An advantage of 
that is that if the window has to be taken out, you only have to 
take out a piece at a time, just untwist the wires and take each 
piece between the bars away separately. If you forget to mark in 
the saddle bars on the cartoon, you may find when you come later 
to settle their positions that they cross a face or other important 
part of your design. 

After you have got your cartoon set out, you start making your 
drawing, and there are a number of cartoons here which show the 
varying treatments different people use. The usual method is to 
draw them in charcoal, and leave the colour to be taken from the 
small sketch. You will see some very admirable sketches here by 
Martin Travers, one of our old students. One can fairly trust to 
these to do the main colour of the window. They are so close to 
the design in detail, that the sketch is quite enough to make the 
glass from without colouring the cartoon. I find myself rather less 
decided than that, and I am so inclined to vary the design on the 
cartoons, that I have to colour them just to make sure I am not 
losing the proportion or the distribution of colour. If you are able 
to stick close to your sketch, you do not need to colour the cartoon ; 
if you are a person who varies, it is best to colour the cartoon.There 
is also this to be said. One is very much inclined, in doing elabor' 
ate charcoal drawings, to put in a great deal too much detail and 



notto trust the glass enough ; glass itself is such a charming mater' 
ial that often the less detail on it in paint, the better the effect. 

When you have done your cartoon, it goes into the workshop, 
and is laid down on a large bench, a stretch of tracing linen is 
placed over it, and the middle line of each of the leads is traced. 
That line is drawn so as to be as thick as the central flange in the 
lead. It is to separate the two pieces of glass. You have now a map 
of the window. Then all these shapes are numbered, and they 
are either cut out or another tracing is made and is cut out and 
numbered again ; the coloured glass, which has already been chc 
sen, is then laid over the paper shapes of the separate pieces, and 
is cut out and also numbered, all your pieces of glass are num' 
bered and correspond to the numbers on the tracing, so that their 
places may be readily found. 

Before this you must have chosen the glass. If you are not the 
head of a workshop, the most practical method is to go through 
and choose with the foreman, who is often a very intelligent man. 
You choose the main colours, you choose your two or three prin' 
cipal reds and two or three principal blues and greens, and as they 
naturally carry through the window, they keep the key right. 
Then you have to leave it to him to choose the minor tints, the 
various variations in these shades of "white." There are a great 
many variations ; you want an expert man to choose those, you 
cannot do it yourself unless you own the workshop andspend your 
life in it, because you do not know the stock. If you do own the 
shop and spend your life at it, you find in a short time you have 
got the business to get, you have got to keep your men employed, 
pay your rent and wages; you spend most of your time in getting 
the work, an d the rest of your time doing the cartoons ; and you 
have not got time to look into the details of choosing the glass. 
It is not a practical thing. Nobody who is essentially a stained 
glass man can do the whole work himself, he has got to trust to 
other men; it is necessarily a piece of communal work. The men 
work better if they have an interest in it. Of course, though, you 
supervise the whole and alter any piece you don't like. 

You have the glass chosen, the main tints, and they are then 
cut out, and the shapes all being settled by means of the bits of 
paper I spoke of, then they are fixed as you see here on a large 
sheet of plain glass, fixed in the positions they are in on the car' 
toon ; all the separate pieces of glass for as large a portion as it is 
convenient to paint at one time. Then you put it up against the 

lO 



light, and you paint them from your cartoon, or they are painted 
by a competent man. That is the beginning of the final stage. 
After they are painted once, they are fired, and generally painted 
a second time, and sometimes they are done a third time, with a 
sort of turpentine paint — they call it "tar." Each time it is fired 
the paint fades a little : the second painting is largely needed to 
strengthen what is fired away in the first. One is supposed to 
know what is to happen in the firing, but sometimes unfortunate 
accidents happen. 

After it is all painted the leads are put round these pieces, they 
are cemented together, an d that is the window finished for fixing. 

Now a word about the modern tendencies in stained glass, and 
I am very glad to say this is illustrated very largely by old students 
of this school. I speak of modern tendencies as compared with 
those of thirty or forty years ago, modern works since the Gothic 
revival — such as the work done by artists of standing and distinc' 
tion, the worksof Rossetti, Madox Brown, Burner Jones, William 
Morris, and others — I think the principal alteration has been very 
much in the use of leading. That sounds, perhaps, unimportant 
and vague to those who have not been working in stained glass, 
but it is really of the first importance. The leading, theoretically, 
and almost always in mediaeval people, was simply done to sep' 
arate one figure or one colour from another, to separate the head 
from the clothing, and the armour from the surcoat, and such 
things as that. You had the lead lines drawn as far as possible 
simply round the form, you would have lead lines round every 
separate colour, but, if you could help it, you tried not to have any 
lead lines across. You tried to arrange it so that you could have a 
plain piece of colour with lead lines round it, and no interfering 
bars across. Modern work has broken away from that very much, 
I think myself to the advantage of the art of stained glass. The 
use of lead lines not only to emphasise form but for structural rea' 
sons and to emphasise important parts of the design, to give quaU 
ity to the colour, and also to give opportunities of variation of the 
colour, is one modern tendency. 

It was largely suggested to modern men by the fact that old 
glass as you see it now is so much broken up by cross lines, because 
it broke accidentally and has been mended. They were so clever 
that they often cut round dangerous shapes which did not last, 
and had to be leaded across to hold the window together. These 
proved to be so attractive in enriching the window that the sug' 

II 



gestion was taken up, and it has now become a vicious manner^ 
ism, in fact I have heard of a man who had a stained glass window 
deUberately broken up, and just leaded up the cracks. But you 
may do it when you feel that it helps your design, if it empha^ 
sises interesting points, or enriches the colour. 

Another tendency of modern glass is the tendency to the use 
of silhouette against plain silvery glass. It is going back to the 
later middle ages, when they were fond of this treatment. The 
silhouette treatment has various qualities, various advantages j 
it emphasises and, I think, makes necessary a rather symbolic 
treatment of stained glass, and as I think the symbolic is the more 
distinguished, the more noble use of the material, this treatment 
has a strong appeal. 

Another tendency in the work of contemporary designers 
which I regret is the absence of bordering. They are so inclined 
to treat figures and quarries right up to the muUion or wall with' 
out any border. It is severe and simple, but you lose the advantage 
in colour very often. This is a point for those of you who are at* 
tempting to treat modern subjects in stained glass, because mod' 
ern subjects are very difficult. We have not the advantage our 
luckier ancestors had of seeing people all round us wearing rich 
and strong colours, colours akin to those of glass, and also fine 
textures ; black broadcloth is not like the black velvet worn by 
gentlemen in the old days. You must find your colours somewhere 
else if you want to use modern figures, and you must manage 
somehow by means of borders or the decorative crosspieces which 
divide the window. So I would suggest that you should pay as 
much attention to the use of borders as you possibly can. You can 
have a very good, rather silvery picture without much colouring, 
such as modern subjects would probably demand, and yet get 
your colour by having a rather rich and wide border. Modern 
figures look best in quite small areas usually. 

Another tendency, not very important, but very helpful to 
colour, is that in the last thirty years the light glass has been used 
much whiter and clearer. When I began to do stained glass the 
correct thing was a kind of dull green, rather a sage green, a 
"greenery, yallery" kind of thing. I think it was because the 
dullish green stuff was thought to give aless newor modern effect. 
As you probably know, very little glass is white, it nearly all has 
some tint, but contrasting strong colour knocks it out, and makes 
you think it is clear.There are a few sorts of glass ofa really clear, 

12 



limpid quality, but you cannot use them too much; they are far 
too dazzling. 

Another tendency is, I think, to use more primary colours; 
strong colours are used more and not so many secondary shades: 
that is because the strong colours, the real colours, red and blue 
and green, the sober and the sombre, the deep and rich colours, 
are the most effedlive contrast with this very silvery white. When 
you get into halftones of browns and greys, you get rather a dull 
effedt. The work done by good men thirty or forty years ago is 
often of that character. If you go to Christchurch Cathedral, Ox' 
ford, there are several windows by Burner Jones and Morris, quite 
good ones, but they look rather washed out, except the earliest 
one which, on the contrary, is very vivid. It is partly because the 
glass itself is not as deep and strong as it might be, and partly be' 
cause there is not enough lead, the pieces are rather too big, and 
partly, perhaps, because there is some very good old glass to be 
seen near by. 

Another tendency which is a good one is the increased reliance 
upon painting in line, the increasing avoidance of that flat, mat 
affair, which has been the workshop tradition up till recently. 
Like many modern workshop traditions it is simply one of in' 
competence and mental idleness, it means they did not know 
how to do it better, and you could also employ cheaper labour, 
because you do not want the same type of educated man to do it. 

There is now a school of young artists who are doing very good 
work, and I hope we shall soon have more — bothmen and women. 
Like pottery painting, it must not be timid, you have got to do 
it with a decided, firm, steady stroke, it does not do to be feeble, 
any more than it does on pottery ; it is the vigorous, quick line you 
want: vigour is even more important than academic accuracy. But 
of course a good man can do it correctly. 

There is also considerably more restraint in the amount of pat' 
tern on costume, borders, etc., and therefore more reliance on the 
quality of the glass itself.Those elaborate and ingenious patterns 
so general in,at anyrate,the greater number of late nineteenth' 
century windows are found to be tedious and worrying; their 
ob j ect was, as a rule, to enrich a rather poor quality of glass. Never' 
theless well'designed pattern work is very useful when judic 
iously used. 

Now a few words to students who propose to take up the study 
of stained glass. First of all get thoroughly used to the material 

13 



and practise painting it, leaving the design of less important de^ 
tail until the glass is being handled. The constant danger to the 
designer is the cartoon. I find that new students are far too apt to 
make elaborate cartoons before they are sufficiently familiar with 
the glass itself, and to cover them with details of ornament of a 
character which will not really help the result. 

Stained glass is severe and at the same time rich. As with every 
technique the subject must be inseparable from the treatment. 
The artisfs subject that is.This is not the same as that which the 
spectator regards as the " subject," and it is not the "art for art's 
sake " subject. It is not beauty divorced from meaning, except in 
the simpler forms of lead lighting or patterns in colour. These are 
often useful, often wanted, but they do not demand the highest 
imaginative qualities which our art can express. I have little sym' 
pathy with the desire to reduce our arts to the abstract. It is too 
austere and too puritanical an ideal. They are the better, I think, 
where the work is conceived in a moment of fervent exaltation. 
It may be religious, it may come from poetry, from music, from 
the external beauty of Nature; it may come as the wind comes, 
one knows not whence, but it sets a flame, as it were, to the imag' 
inative mind, and in that flame the artistic subject is born. 

Now without a real grasp of the craft this moment is wasted. 
Nothing is welded. The beautiful possibility cannot come to the 
birth, it is without form, it has no bodily shape, and is but one 
of those pitiful unrealised and unrealisable glimpses through the 
veil which form the tragedy of the incomplete artist. 

Only when you are so familiar and so easy with your means of 
expression that their limitations, their sO'Called restraints, are to 
you a help and a happy freedom and as natural to you as the organs 
of your body, can you hope to realise the gift which is offered to 
you and transform it into your own artistic expression. 

This does not imply that** to carry out the carrying out "will 
necessarily be easy, any more than it is always easy to make your 
bodyobey your wishes; but it will be natural, and the transform' 
ation will be unconscious, just as a^chool'boy is transformed into 
a cricketer quite unconsciously, but yet cricket is not easy. 

To get down to fads, what all this means is that you must work 
at your technique until you never dream of wanting stained glass 
to do the things which stained glass won't do. 

Now stained glass is at its best, as I have said, a severe and yet 
rich form of decoration. It can, in its lighter uses, express a sort 

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of quaintness or whimsicality, it can tell the gothic fairy tale — 
goblins, elves, gnomes, it can express a somewhat grimmish form 
of fantasy. I remember seeing a capital piece of work — quite 
small — giving the characters of that strange old Cornish song 
" Widdicombe Fair," a rather macabre story — with the Ghost 
of the Old Grey Mare, Peter Hawke and the rest of the rout. 
But it cannot easily be gay and it can never be frivolous. How 
depressing is restaurant stained glass! I am speaking of stained 
glass, /.c, coloured glass. White glass, painted, can convey a cer- 
tain sedate cheerfulness, as one may see in i6th and 17th century 
domestic work; and when enamelled, as in the Swiss work, it even 
has a sort of sprightliness, of a Teutonic rather than of a Latin 
type. Excursions along these paths might give very interesting 
results to those whose temperaments lead them to such adven- 
tures. They have been by no means explored — and some of our 
students are gifted that way. 

We modern people stand at a disadvantage compared to our 
ancestors in that the surroundings of our lives are not so imme- 
diately suggestive of treatment in glass as those which they en- 
joyed. Think of the luck of that man in Richard IFs time who 
had to put "le Dispencers "round the choir atTewkesbury. Not, 
of course, a great imaginative subjed:,but a very pleasant, inter- 
esting, and easy job— gorgeous knights in surcoats with their arms 
emblazoned. And then think of being asked to do a modern Cabi- 
net Council ! Nevertheless there are suggestions to be got from 
modern life, and I am glad to see that our students are aware of 
it — children, women — men are more difficult. Texture as well 
as colour is a difficulty, it cannot quite be ignored. 

But the great, the profound difficulty is the absence of sym- 
bolic figures, of characters which have been ** canonised " in our 
times by popular acclaim, and symbolism must be widely and 
readily recognised to be of value. Think of all the great moral 
qualities — and these are naturally the motives of much stained 
glass. Is it leadership in war ? It is not General Haig, nor even 
Foch, your mind flies to — but Joshua or David, or Godfrey de 
Bouillon. Is it statesmanship ? It is not Lloyd George or Glad- 
stone, or even William Pitt — but rather Moses or Gregory, Hil- 
debrand or Anselm. Is it patriotism and self sacrifice? Well, there 
are many graves "which are for ever England," and yet — it is 
Joan of Arc we think of. Probably, Florence Nightingale and 
General Gordon are the only charaAers which have been "can- 

15 



onised" in recent times. And even in the case of Gordon does 
the present generation feel about him as we older ones did, who 
watched his tragedy and cherish his memory? If it comes to other 
than moral virtues, to figures typifying facftors in the structure 
of Society — Law, Kingship, Commerce, Labour ? Law would 
scarcely be a Lord Chancellor (or Justinian), but again Moses,with 
theTablets given him fromThe Mount. Kingship would hardly 
be a modern sovereign — but Barbarossa as in the Spanish Chapel, 
or Charlemagne, or our own King Arthur. 

Commerce is, I confess, a diflEculty. I thinkpossibly the gracious 
figure of Venice would behest. Certainlynot thePort of London 
Authority or Sir Alfred Mond or Lord Leverhulme ! For Labour, 
not that gorilla'like figure, with a huge jaw and no back to its 
head, brandishinga pick or a hammer, so favoured bythe advan' 
ced politicians, and some sculptors, of tO'day. But rather — the 
shepherds following the angel to the lowly manger. 

It follows then, that those who wish to excel in stained glass 
designingshouldhaveawide culture andrealimagination,asound 
knowledge of the necessary technique, and a thorough delight in 
the craft. I feel sure, too,that they would be allthebetter for study 
and design in other methods of artistic expression in order to avoid 
that staleness and repetition which too often comes to those who 
practice one form of art alone. 

ROBERT ANNING BELL. 



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Nailsworth, Glos. 

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